Hospitality is defined as the reception and entertainment of guests or strangers with liberality and kindness. Paul exhorted Christians at Rome to "contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13, Revised Standard Version). Abraham received three angels and earnestly invited them and served them himself while Sarah, his wife took care to make ready provisions for his guests. (Genesis 18:2-8). Peter and Paul with great care recommended hospitality to the faithful: "Use hospitality one to another without grudging" (1 Peter 4:9). Christ said, "I was a stranger and ye took me not in. Inasmuch as ye did it not to the least of these ye did it not to me" (Matthew 25:41-45). Mary's humble receptivity in welcoming God's Spirit contrasts sharply with the lack of hospitality she and Joseph received at Bethlehem (Luke 1-2).
In Christian history hospitality and love of enemy (from the Latin, hospes, meaning "stranger") were considered an important virtue, above all in the medieval Catholic monastic tradition. It is a basic practice and highly valued virtue in all traditional societies (modernity). Affluent Mennonites from Mennonite Central Committee or mission boards have frequently remarked upon people in non-Western countries who receive guests generously and share meager food and lodging freely. Hospitality is becoming an important concept in mission theology as well.
Mennonites have valued hospitality from their beginnings, having known exile and persecution themselves. Menno Simons 1552, said "It is not customary that an intelligent person clothes and cares for one part of his body and leaves the rest naked. The intelligent person is solicitous for all his members. Thus it should be with those who are the Lord's church and body. All those born of God are called into one body and are prepared by love to serve their neighbors."
It was customary, and continued in the late 20th century to a certain extent among the more acculturated Mennonites groups in North America, and to a large extent among Amish and Old Order families to have their families and relatives as guests on Sunday for visiting and eating together. Strangers and relatives from outside the community were invited, fed, and bedded. Tramps and hoboes generally received some food and at times a place to sleep at night. Mennonite hospitality in comparison with that of the general population remains a subject for careful research. Wives of ministers, bishops, and elders, were expected to carry a large responsibility for hosting visitors; some viewed this as a particular calling and ministry. Because it was not formally recognized as such, although frequently informally praised, some have criticized the greater attention given to the pastoral work of men when compared with lack of attention to this ministry by women.
Among some of the Dutch and northern German Mennonite groups it was customary to have Vaspa (light lunch) on Sunday afternoons for friends and visitors. This consisted of Zwiebach (a special bread roll), butter or preserves, possibly pieces of cheese or ham, and a torte or pie and coffee.
Since the 1970s the Mennonite Your Way directory has appeared, a listing of Mennonite families across the United States, Canada, and other countries who are willing to provide overnight lodging for Mennonites and other travelers. This to a certain extent expresses hospitality, even though hosts are often paid modestly for their services. People who have entertained or have been entertained have found "Mennonite Your Way" a very hospitable and rewarding experience.
Hostetler, John A. Amish Society. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980: 217-22.
Rule of St. Benedict, ch. 53, 66.
Koenig, John. New Testament Hospitality: Partnership With Strangers as Promise and Mission, Overtures to Biblical theology, 17. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, ca. 1985.
Arias, Mortimer. "Centripetal Mission or Evangelization by Hospitality." Missiology 10, no. 1 (January 1982): 69-81.
Rule of St. Benedict (Index to electronic texts of the Rule)
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Kaufman, Edna Ramseyer and Dennis D. Martin. "Hospitality." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/H6805ME.html.
APA style: Kaufman, Edna Ramseyer and Dennis D. Martin. (1989). Hospitality. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/H6805ME.html.